Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There was nobody more frustrated by last week’s foot-plus of snow in southern Minnesota than the state’s spring prep athletes.
Teams had finally started to hit their playing fields on a somewhat regular basis, and then the May blizzard hit Owatonna, Faribault, Rochester and other parts of southeastern Minnesota. With temperatures Tuesday expected to get near 80, playing fields all over Minnesota will be bustling with tennis rackets, aluminum bats, golfers and track stars.
It appears the threat of snow is finally in the rear-view mirror, so it begs the question of what to expect the rest of the spring season in high school sports.
The best educated guess I can give you is to expect the unexpected. We’re just a few weeks away from section tournaments starting, and most teams have barely had a regular season to this point. This is the type of year where virtually anybody can make a postseason run. No team has had a chance to establish their talent and consistency on any playing field, at least not for any length of time.
In tennis, Edina is the perennial big school favorite until somebody else beats them. Although right now, state rankings have Wayzata at No. 1, Edina at No. 2 and Maple Grove third in Class AA. In Class A, it will be a three-horse race between Blake, Breck and Rochester Lourdes. Those are currently the top three-ranked teams.
On the baseball diamond, it’s anyone’s guess who will end the year with a state championship. Last year’s AAA state champion, Eastview, is 4-2 through six games and just behind first place Lakeville North (6-0) in the South Suburban Conference. I would also keep my eye on Hill-Murray (4-0), Red Wing and Edina and Eden Prairie out of the Lake Conference.
With many teams playing doubleheaders to fill out their conference schedules, the teams that have the most pitching depth have the greatest chance at success.
On the softball diamond, Eastview (6-0) and Lakeville North (9-1) appear poised to battle for the South Suburban Conference title. Last year’s state champion, Stillwater, is off to a 4-1 start in the Suburban East Conference. Forest Lake (5-0) and Hastings (9-1) are also strong in that league. Also keep an eye on Anoka (5-0) and Maple Grove (4-0) in the Northwest Suburban Conference.
Everyone is off to a late start this year with the miserable spring weather, so now that it’s nice out, we’re right in the thick of things for every team. Buckle up, because the next month should be a busy and fun ride.
Howard Pulley Wins Host Tournament
The Howard Pulley 17-and-under AAU basketball team won its own tournament last weekend, hosted at the High Performance Academy in Eagan. The Panthers are led by junior standouts Tyus Jones of Apple Valley and Reid Travis of DeLaSalle. In their championship game, a 20-point victory, Jones had 12 points and nine assists. Travis had 17 points and 12 rebounds, and DeLaSalle teammate Jarvis Johnson had 17 points.
The Howard Pulley Classic is the premier AAU tournament in Minnesota for boys basketball. It brought in 17 teams from all over the country featuring some of the nation’s top talent.
Recruiting continues to be a hot topic among the 2014 recruiting class as Travis, Jones and Rashad Vaughn all hope to have their college decisions made by the time their senior seasons start. Jones recently told several media outlets he fully intends to play in college with one of his best friends in basketball, Chicago standout center Jahlil Okafor. Both are ranked in the top five nationally for the 2014 recruiting class.
For now, get out and enjoy the spring action while you can. If you blink, state champions will be crowned in a season that will likely be as unpredictable as our weather.